Friday, March 19, 2010

Play Dates: Germ Factories?

I’m a social person. I enjoy getting out and talking with other moms, especially other moms with babies. If they breastfeed, it’s an added bonus, because it means we will have lots to talk about.

My baby and I laid pretty low this winter. I felt like I wanted to keep her protected from germs during flu season. Now that spring is upon us, I’m much more open to getting together with other people. In fact, this week alone, there are three play dates we are attending.

I’m not sure what your experiences have been with play dates, but  mine usually go something like this: There are blankets on the floor, everyone brings some toys to share, and all of the babies are sitting up on the blankets or lying on their backs or stomachs. It’s a free for all with toys – each baby can play with whichever toy strikes his fancy. Toys go in mouths, back on the blanket, and into another baby’s mouth.

Part of me really doesn’t mind this, but another part of me is fighting the urge to sanitize every toy that my baby is about to play with. I know she’s at an age now (almost 8 months old) where she can fight off a cold pretty well, and it might even do her immune system some good. However, no one can deny that having a baby with a cold is a pretty miserable state of affairs – for both the baby and the mommy.

Another aspect of this is the huge differences in the way parents handle their own children being sick. When my baby is sick, we don’t attend play dates. If we get together with people, I keep her away from the other babies, and I don’t let other children play with her toys. I would feel terrible knowing I caused another baby to get sick. I know that not all parents share my philosophy on this, though, and would be all too willing to allow their sick baby come into contact with my healthy baby. Does this bother me? I haven’t decided yet.

When I start to panic, I think about all of the germs we come into contact without even realizing it: The shopping cart at the grocery store, the products at the grocery store, my car door handle, my car keys, playground equipment, library books. Is there really a way to completely avoid germs?

I don’t agree with doing everything the way my parents and grandparents did when it comes to raising children, but I think I agree with the way they handled germs. Sure, we washed our hands before eating and after going to the bathroom, and we bathed regularly, but that was about it. We played outside in the dirt, we played with other children, sick or healthy, and they didn’t worry too much about it. Somehow we all lived to adulthood, and I have a feeling my daughter will too, play dates or not. 

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